Military Finance Report: January 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Top 3 Personal Finance Sites and Apps

The first step towards financial success is to track your money. You need to know where your money is going before you can make any sound decisions. There are many personal finance websites and apps that can help you do this. They integrate into your bank accounts and have amazing tools to help you manage your finances. Many of them are free so you may have to deal with some advertisements, but other than that, they are strong/powerful tools to aid you with your finances. Here are the top three that I’ve had personal experience with and/or had discussed with others about.
  • Mint - I used this for almost a year and I liked it a lot. I was able to integrate all my accounts in it and it helped create good trackers and it let me track some of my personal goals. I had it on my desktop and the iPhone app. The iPhone app had a lot of advertisements, but it’s worth it. I want this blog to become a good source of information and I also rely on advertisements to help earn income. The app is owned by Intuit so if you’ve used Quicken to prepare your taxes, then some of your Mint information can quickly transfer over when filing your taxes.
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB) – The full service costs money but it offers a social experience to it too. You can go on their forums and talk to others, view their tutorials and lessons and get real advice from professionals. They’ve recently released a free “lite” version of their product and it’s still very powerful. Some of my friends love the feature that gives you tailored advice if it notices you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck. I’ve been helping people with their finances for over a decade now and a lot of people don’t like asking for financial help (especially men). A friend of mine loved getting good advice from the app while retaining his privacy.
  • Personal Capital – A friend personally recommended I post about this one. This site is less about the budget and more about investing and managing your money. I’ve read a lot of good reviews from users and they are very happy with the reduced amount of advertisements compared to Mint.com. I’ve never personally used it before but I trust the recommendation.
These are very powerful tools that you can use. Working with a Certified Financial Planner can be very costly, so even paying $60 for YNAB will save you money over the long run. Check out each website and let me know which one you prefer or like to use.  What other sites do people use?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Year in Review and 2015 New Year's Resolutions

Every year I create financial goals to help guide me through the year. I first read this quote when I started my fitness journey regarding meal preparing, "If you fail to prepare, then you are prepared to fail." (Unknown). I think this is relevant in any goal management, but especially with financial goals. Here's a sneak peek at how I managed my finances in 2014.
  • Max out Individual Retirement Account (IRA) - In 2014, the limit was $5,500. This is always my first goal and I've been maxing it out every year for almost a decade. This is my first goal in 2015 as well. I use Fidelity to manage my IRA; if you're interested in starting a Fidelity account please let me know so I can refer you. In 2014, I met this goal.
  • Put $XXK into my "high-yield" savings account - This is my emergency savings account. I'm expanding it beyond the 6 months of bills (the typical advice) to add 12 months of bills for my new house. My goal is to have the ability to absorb a whole year of not having a renter when we PCS and have to rent this house out. Some of the increase will also be for a new car in 1 1/2 years. I use CapitalOne 360 (the bank that bought ING Direct) for my "high-yield" savings account; if you're interested in starting a CapitalOne 360 account please let me know so I can refer you and we both get money. In 2014, I met this goal.
  • Save at least $XK from each paycheck - Ever since I was an E-4 I've been creating this goal. No matter how hard you plan, you'll always have unexpected costs throughout the year. For this goal, I'm focused on the end goal so if I can't save the goal from one paycheck, I'll make sure I save a little more from a future paycheck. But this gives me an average savings goal from each paycheck and allows me to see if I'm exceeding my goal or not meeting it. In 2014, I met this goal.
  • Increase dividend income by X% to $XK - One of my retirement goals is to supplement the amount I lose by retiring with dividend and interest income by the time I retire from the Air Force. This is a lofty goal and I may need several years after Air Force retirement to achieve it. Nonetheless, I try finding better return rates on my investments to achieve this goal. One of my new investments this year was Lending Club. They offer loans ($35K or less) to people and investors can contribute $25 increments to their loan so it spreads the risk while offering a better yield. By playing it safe, I earned a 9%+ return on investment this year. If you're interested in starting a Lending Club account please let me know so I can refer you and we both get money. In 2014, I DID NOT meet this goal. I was very close but missed the goal by less than $200. I'm not too worried, but next year I would like to say I exceeded the new goal I set.
  • Net Assets of $XXXK by the end of the year - This is just an overall goal. I don't focus on how much I have saved total. I focus on what the money is doing and what return on investment I'm getting. People focus on a round number like $1M without figuring out what their going to do with it once they get there. Most rich people don't even care how much total they are worth, they only care how much money it's earning so they can use it. Either way, it helps me focus and ensure I'm earning a decent of return on investment. In 2014, I DID NOT meet this goal. I tried to do some ultra-risky investments to help my wife pay off her school loans and they all back fired on me. I lost a lot of money this year on those investments and it stings pretty badly. My house equity didn't rise at all either like I had expected. In fact, I manage my Dad's IRA and it's pretty conservative and safe and he crushed my returns this year.
These goals are specific to me. If I had debt-management goals, then those would be near the top. If I didn't have an emergency savings account, then that would've been my first goal. What are your goals for this year? If you need help or are interested in being referred so we both get money please leave me a comment or e-mail me at bjone6 @ gmail . com (spaced out to prevent spam bots).